After reading some horror stories of delayed/slow embarkation for the Liberty's Eastern Caribbean itinerary due to slow disembarkation from the previous Western Caribbean cruises to Belize, we decided to arrive at the port a bit later than usual to try to miss the line ups. We arrived at around 12:45pm to see a significant amount of luggage lining the curb, but no line-ups to get into the terminal. We tipped the porter for our luggage, and headed inside. Once inside, there was a crowd of people in the small lower floor lobby waiting to go upstairs to security. They had temporarily closed access to the upper level due to the number of people waiting to go through security. We waited here for about 15-20 minutes, and were then allowed upstairs to the security line. This line moved quite fast, however upon reaching the front, we were told that due to crowds inside the check-in area, they were holding the line. Another 20 minutes later, we were allowed through security. The check-in line moved relatively quickly and we were soon on our way onto the ship, seapasses in hand around 2:30pm. The process wasn't as fast as for previous cruises out of Port Everglades and Bayonne, NJ, however it wasn't as bad as we expected.
The ship is beautiful. Having just come out of dry-dock a week prior to our cruise, everything was very clean and in good repair. It was evident that the mini-golf course had recently been fixed up, various carpets replaced, light fixtures cleaned, etc. The layout of the ship was remarkably similar to the Explorer which I had been on previously, making it very easy for me to navigate. The ship's Royal Promenade is very impressive and a great spot to hang out at night between events, or during the day when the weather isn't cooperating. The pools and sports deck were the places to be during the day for everyone from the young, to the old. There's something for everyone. While chairs were hard to come by near the pools after about 8:30am, they seemed to clear out around lunch time when the crowds shifted to the Windjammer buffet, so it's best to either arrive at the pool very early, or wait until the early to mid-afternoon. The thing that impressed me the most was the H20 Zone kid's pool area. It was amazing with a variety of pools, spraying water, and more. The children onboard really seemed to enjoy it.
Our group consisted of 3 adults, and we stayed in room 6374, a category D1 stateroom - a superior oceanview room with balcony. This room featured a large futon style sofa-bed which could easily sleep 2, as well as a king-size bed which could be split into 2 twin beds. The bed was near the balcony which provided a lot of space upon entering the room, making the room feel larger. Of note however, the bed faced backwards, although this was not noticible unless looking outside while the ship was moving and did not bother us. We were pleasantly surprised by the size of the room in comparison to a previous E1 cabin on the Radiance of the Seas, and a Promenade room on the Explorer of the Seas. There was an abundance of storage space - we are not light packers, and we still had some unused drawers and cupbboards. The balcony was spacious, and contained 2 chairs and a small round coffee-table. There was plenty of room for additional chairs, however we were told by our stateroom attendant that she is not allowed to provide us with an extra chair, but we were welcome to take the chair from the desk outside on the balcony. The washroom was like that of a typical cruise-ship, complete with time-capsule style shower, although it was sufficient for our needs. Our stateroom attendant was great at keeping the room clean and providing us with a new towel friend every evening.
There is no shortage of food onboard the Liberty of the Seas, and there are always various places to dine.
The Windjammer Buffet and Jade - Located on deck 11 aft, the Windjammer is the main hub for breakfast and lunch onboard. It consists of 2 sides buffets, and some stations at the back. The 2 sides towards the entrance are called "Jade", and they feature some Asian-style dishes, while the stations towards the back contain a variety of foods. We ate most of our breakfasts in the Windjammer, and the variety of food was remarkable, and everything was hot and fresh. I can't think of anything else that they could possibly add for breakfast. Service at breakfast varied depending on the section we sat in, but was generally adequate with frequent offers for drinks and quick clearing of plates. Lunch in the Windjammer consisted of a salad bar, carving station, burgers and fries, pastas, pizza, some ethnic dishes, sandwiches, etc, and a large dessert area. From 3:30-5:00 daily, they featured afternoon snacks, which was basically a condensed version of the lunch buffet, along with a nacho and taco station, waffles, and hot bread-pudding with vanilla sauce. Dinner is served nightly in the Windjammer and features different selections each night. We had dinner there once, and the food was average. There is a create-your-own pasta station at night, as well as Asian food at Jade (sushi, tempura, etc), a carving station, and various other dishes, in addition to a dessert station featuring a sundae bar. Dinner in the Windjammer is a nice change of pace for those needing a break from the Main Dining Room. The service at dinner was somewhat slow, with nobody providing beverage service and delayed clearing of plates, but it did not diminish our experience too much.
The Main Dining Room - Serving breakfast and dinner daily, and lunch on sea-days, the 3-level Main Dining Room was a place frequently visited on our cruise. We ate breakfast here once, which featured a small buffet area with hot selections in addition to a granola station, as well as a served menu with all of the basics and daily specials like eggs benedict. We ate lunch here once as well, with an extensive salad bar and a menu with various things. The service at lunch was a bit slow with the waiters visibly overworked, although it was still enjoyable as we were not in a rush. We also ate dinner here on 6 out of the 8 nights, often ordering a few appetizers and desserts, and sometimes even an extra main course or two to share. The appetizers were generally above average, while the main courses ranged from slightly below average to excellent, and the desserts were average to above average. Overall I think the food in the Main Dining Room could use a bit of work, but we still enjoyed it and never went hungry. Be sure to try the Moroccan chicken salad and vidalia onion tart appetizers, the Fisherman's plate and filet of beef main courses, and the caramel pecan tart dessert. Our waiter was Joel, with assistant waiter Michael, and while they started out a bit slow for the first few nights, they picked up towards the end. You could tell they were trying very hard and were maybe somewhat overworked.
Cafe Promenade - Located on deck 5 towards the aft of the Royal Promenade, Cafe Promenade is open 24 hours a day and features a self-serve coffee/tea/hot chocolate station, along with various sandwiches, pastries, and cookies, all included in your cruise fare. They also have specialty coffees for an additional charge. A must-visit for early morning, afternoon, or late-night snacks, or even for a light lunch. Make sure to try the brownies - they're delicious, and addictive!
Sorrento's Pizza - Located on deck 5 in the Royal Promenade near the forward elevators, Sorrento's is open from lunch time until around 2am. They have a variety of pizzas which change daily, in addition to roasted red peppers, grilled vegetables, artichokes, olives, etc, and even some small dessert cups. Everything here was incredible, and I wish I would have visited more often. The barbecue chicken pizza was incredible.
Room Service - Room service is available 24/7, however there is a charge of $3.95 which includes the tip for orders between midnight and 5am. We ordered breakfast on an early port day to save some time. We put the menu with our order outside the door the night before, requesting a delivery time of 7-7:30am. The phone rang at 6:09am, stating that they were on their way with our order. Not realizing what time it was, we said okay. I then checked the clock and noticed they were an hour early, so I called back and asked to have our order held for another half hour or so. The lady stated that the man that called had likely already left, but she'd try to find him. In the end, the food arrived at 6:55 which worked out okay, however the early wake-up call was somewhat unappreciated. I likely wouldn't order room service for breakfast again as they forgot some items and there was nowhere to spread it out to eat (especially not on the tiny balcony table), but it wasn't terrible. We also ordered room service for lunch on a sea-day as we were craving honey stung chicken which is only available on the first day in the Windjammer, or through room-service. We ordered a variety of different things including caesar salad, spinach and artichoke dip, a hot turkey and swiss sandwich, honey stung chicken with sweet potato fries, and some dessert. It took a long time to arrive (about 50 minutes) but everything was delicious and of better quality than the Windjammer lunch. We would order lunch or dinner again, although once again, it was difficult to eat with only the small balcony table and the small and low coffee table in the room.
Johnny Rockets - With a cover charge of $4.95 a person, Johnny Rockets, located on deck 12, was worth every penny. They start you off with fries and onion rings with their special dip and a ketchup smiley-face, and you're free to order as much as you want, from their signature burgers, to chili-dogs, to club sandwiches, and desserts like apple pie a-la-mode. Their beverages cost extra, however the milkshakes are delicious, and you can simply walk up and buy them without having to pay the cover charge. The waiters do their choreographed dances every so often, and while some of them appeared to not know the dance, it was still a lot of fun to watch. This is also the only restaurant which features an outdoor eating area - great for watching sailaways, particularly from San Juan, Puerto Rico as you sail by El Morro Fort!
Chops - Chops has a cover-charge of $25 per person. We were skeptical about dining here, however we took the plunge and were glad we did. The fee includes an appetizer (yes, you can order more than one), a main course, and dessert. Everything I ordered was delicious, from the onion soup to the shrimp cocktail, to the petite filet mignon, however the NY steak that one member of my family ordered was extremely tough, although the staff tried to fix that by offering her a different entree. There are various delicious side dishes that are served family-style so that you can try a bit of everything. The mud-pie here is a must have for dessert. The service was good with very attentive servers, and the ambience was a nice quiet reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the Main Dining Room.
Portofino's - This Italian restaurant has a $20 per person charge, although we did not eat there so I cannot comment.
There were a variety of activities going on at all times, and there seemed to be something for everyone, from health and beauty seminars, to athletic activities, to towel-folding classes and cooking demonstrations, to 3D movies in the platinum theatre and karaoke in "On Air". In fact, there was so much going on that we felt we were missing out as we didn't have time to do it all! Mike, the cruise director, his staff, and the activities staff were all wonderful and kept everyone engaged and entertained. Mike did a "Behind the Scenes" show one morning which was full of interesting facts about the Liberty, pictures of crew areas, and a question and answer period. This was the first time I have seen this done on a cruise, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. The new big screen by the main pool was wonderful, although we felt it could have been better utilized. There was usually trivia which repeated many times throughout the day, along with the odd sports game in the daytime, and it was used for movies under the stars on 1 occasion, and a late-night concert once. They probably could have made better use of it by showing more sporting events, movies, and concerts throughout the cruise, in the day and evening.
The cruise featured 3 headliner shows, a few production shows, an ice show, and some game shows. The headliners were average, although Abbacadabra, the Abba tribute band was excellent. The production shows were okay. Up in the Air was the best one in my opinion, and featured some neat aerial acts. The ice show, Encore is a must see. While I found the plot somewhat cheesy, the skill of the skaters was pretty good despite a few falls. There were no tickets available for the ice shows, and seating was on a first-come basis. This worked out well as you didn't need to plan your whole day around the time of your tickets, although there were line ups before the doors opened. In terms of night-time entertainment, there were some bands and musicians scattered around the ship, including the promenade, the Hoof and Claw bar in the Royal Promenade, the Olive or Twist bar on deck 14, and the Schooner Bar on deck 4. My personal favorite was Suave, the band that played in Olive or Twist (The Viking Crown Lounge). Of course the casino was open late as well, and was hopping throughout our entire cruise.
Our cruise featured 2 sea days, followed by 4 port days, and an additional sea day.
St. Thomas, USVI - We booked a tour online with Godfrey Tours. He took us shopping downtown for about 2 hours, followed by some sightseeing, a visit to the Mountain-Top store/bar/lookout point (where there was a 20 minute downpour), a 2.5 hour stop at Magens Bay Beach ($4 entrance) where we had lunch and went for a swim, a little bit more sightseeing, and back to the ship. He included cold non-alcoholic drinks as well. Unfortunately it rained a few more times throughout the day, but it didn't interfere much with our fun.
Phillipsburg, St. Maarten - We once again booked a tour with Bernard's Tours as we did a year and a half ago, and this time, our tour was quite different, but the different stops were very much appreciated. Our driver was the "Mail Man" as he calls himself and was great! We started out at a farm to feed the iguanas, followed by a trip to a neat lookout point and the "sea urchin man", a 2 hour stop at Orient Beach for lunch and swimming, a 30 minute stop in Marigot for pastries, 30 minutes at Maho Beach to see the planes come in, and a little more touring. We had a wonderful day and for $35 per person plus tip, it was a great deal. He dropped us back at the ship at 3:15pm, with an option of dropping us off in downtown Phillipsburg for some shopping, which we declined. We had a wonderful time and wouldn't hesitate to book with Bernard yet again!
San Juan, Puerto Rico - Given our short visit here from 7am-2pm, we decided to take it easy and walk around on our own. We walked around Old San Juan from around 10am-2pm and did some shopping and sightseeing. We were going to take the free trolley but after waiting for 20 minutes and having one that was already full show up, we gave up and walked. It was probably faster to walk anyway as the streets are narrow and there's a lot of traffic for cars.
Labadee, Haiti - This was our first time visiting Labadee and it was our absolute favorite port. We took the free shuttle boat to Columbus Cove, although we soon realized that we could have walked there just as quickly. We decided to find a spot to sit on the beach just beside Columbus Cove - I'm not sure if it had a name, but it was great - smooth sand, (a couple small rocks but not as bad as expected based on what I read here - I did not need water shoes!), beautiful calm water, no sea creatures around, close bathrooms, a bar, and it was only a 2 minute walk from "Cafe Labadee", one of the 3 buffet areas on Labadee. The chairs at the beach were all stacked at the back, but there were people around to help you move them, bring a blue canopy for shade, etc. RCI discourages tipping them in the cruise compass, but we did see people giving them as much as $1 per chair. After a nice swim and a walk around to explore the area, we had lunch at the buffet, which had a large covered seating area with picnic tables. They had all different kinds of food... various salads, burgers, turkey burgers, ribs, chicken, corn, baked potatoes, etc, as well as cookies, cake, and fruit for dessert. There was also an area with iced tea, lemonade, and water. The food was good - better than in the Windjammer. There were a few shows put on by locals, bands scattered around the island, and a nice kids area with a pirate ship and all kinds of fun activities run by Adventure Ocean. We did not do any paid activities here but they had everything from parasailing, jet-skiing, and kayaking, to zip-lining and the 2-person rollercoaster. Everything looked like a lot of fun! There's a tram that runs around the area frequently, however we found it very fast and easy to walk as the paths are all concrete and smooth to walk on, and there's a lot of shade thanks to the trees. The walk from the beach we were at (the second furthest away) back to the ship was only 5-10 minutes at a very slow pace. As a side note about the beaches, I'd recommend the beaches on the right side of the paths versus those on the left which were much rockier, rougher, had more seaweed, and had warning signs for various sea-creatures like jellyfish, sharks, etc. The beaches on the right beside barefoot beach, the gold seapass only beach (including Columbus Cove) were much more calm and clean.
Due to an early flight from FLL back to Toronto, we opted to do Express Disembarkation, and carry our luggage off on our own. They began this around 6:15am, and it was a fast and easy process. The hardest part was getting an elevator, however after going up, then back down with our luggage, the problem was solved. The gangway was located on deck 4 forward for U.S. citizens, and aft for non-U.S. citizens, and while I can't speak for the other line, the customs line for international citizens was very fast and painless. Within about 10 minutes, we were off the ship. We pre-booked a ride back to FLL online with SAS, and they were there waiting for us when we disembarked. We arrived at FLL within 25-30 minutes, before 8:00, and with plenty of time to check in for our 11:30 flight home.
All-in-all, we had a wonderful cruise. While there were a couple things that were not 100%, nothing was enough to ruin our vacation. We would definitely recommend Royal Caribbean to others, and will excitedly sail with them again, hopefully in the near future!